Customs to wave through Channel booze cruisers

Customs officers are to be ordered to turn a blind eye to cross-Channel shoppers bringing cheap alcohol and cigarettes back from the Continent. The new rule – to be announced formally later this month – signifies an embarrassing shift in policy and will curb the powers of Customs officers at Channel ports.

The Government will announce that Customs officials will focus their resources on smuggling operations rather than on day trippers.

It follows public criticism of Customs officers, who have been using draconian powers to detain day trippers bringing back cigarettes and drink for personal use. The climbdown comes as Frits Bolkestein, the EU's internal market commissioner, threatens to prosecute the Government for breaking EU rules.

Shoppers can in theory bring unlimited quantities of alcohol and cigarettes from the Continent for themselves, but Customs say that "reasonable" limits are 800 cigarettes, 1kg of tobacco, 200 cigars, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer.

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